A part of the city wall of Pompeii

3. The third and final phase, as can be seen today from the long stretch of walls between “Porta Ercolano” and “Porta Vesuvio”, has three walls containing two embankments  preserved in excellent condition. The flat topped layer of earth between the first two walls was used as a walkway, as was the top of the second embankment (also probably flat but raised higher than the previous one). The remaining part of the second embankment, which is lower towards the interior of the city, served mainly to strengthen the fortification. The third and last wall, in addition to containing the thrust of the second embankment, also delimited the route of a road that, at least in this area of ​​the city, skirted the city walls. Along the stretch of walls between “Porta Ercolano” and “Porta Vesuvio”, three of the original twelve rectangular towers (named clockwise, XII, XI and X) are well preserved, and near the “Porta Ercolano”,  the remains of a monumental staircase which served to reach the levels of the flat walkways, is found.

To understand why the walls were completely rebuilt several times in Pompeii , we must refer to Poliorcetics, which is the art of besieging and conquering fortified cities. Military technology and technology (in general)  changed over the centuries. While the city walls in “pappamonte” stone initially offered effective defense to the city, from the end of the IV and the beginning of the third century BC, a new fortification was built. This was necessary due to change in the strategies of attack and defense of the cities. In the Archaic age in the Greek world, the technique of the siege of the city was adopted with the aim of isolating it from its territory and forcing it to surrender due to lack of food resources or due to the exhaustion of the war arsenal. The only alternative to break the pressure of the enemy siege was to leave the (refuge of the ) city walls and face an open battle. To defend itself from the besiegers a particularly powerful fortification was not necessary since  the function of the city walls was to separate and to protect the population from the besiegers. In the IV century C., with the development of war strategies supported by scientific research and the publication of treatises dedicated to machines and the methods of attack and defense of cities, the old fortifications became obsolete. Thanks to the use of increasingly efficient war machines (as catapults), the new Poliorcetics allowed besiegers to assault and conquer cities by destroying walls and gates. The fortifications thus acquired ever greater importance, not only because defensive measures suitable to frustrate the destructive potential of hostile weapons of war were needed, but also because they had to be set up in such a way as to accommodate  throwing weapons of various types, to counterattack  pressure from the besiegers.



Excerpt from:  Marco Fabbri, Difendersi, in Massimo Osanna e Carlo Rescigno, Pompei e i Greci, Electa, 2017, pp. 268-271



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